The Making of a Susanna Kearsley Cover - Plus Giveaway

Book Season of Storms On Saturday, Susanna Kearsley's The Firebird  ( A | BN | K | ARe ) won the RITA® for Best Paranormal at the 2014 RWA convention. While I had no idea that was going to happen, I'm a little extra excited, because I'd been working on a Q&A with the Sourcebooks art and productions departments about the making of her covers, and had planned to post it today. Yay for timing! 

Season of Storms is Kearsley's newest novel, and it comes out on 2 September 2014 – and yes, it is up for preorder now at Amazon and BN. Kearsley's cover art is pretty unique, so my nosy questions began there. Sarah Cardillo, director of production at Sourcebooks, provided the answers – because a Q&A with two Sarahs is always better than a Q&A with just one! 

Sarah W: The Kearsley covers have a very specific and unique “look” to them. How did you go about developing that look?

Book The Winter Sea
The Winter Sea
( A | BN | K | ARe | iB )

Sarah C: The first book we published, The Winter Sea, was the work of a fantastic cover designer, Kelly Eismann. As a design team, it was one of the earliest “women's fiction” titles we published and having Kelly develop the cover was a big deal for us. She really led the way in creating what would become signature elements used in every Susanna Kearsley cover.

Kelly spent a lot of time reading the book and reviewing Susanna's extensive notes about the time and place, the emotions of the story and the characters. In the end, the cover she submitted for The Winter Sea was perfect.

The soft focus on the character helped create a feeling of timelessness and we liked how the woman feels like she's heading somewhere, and you want to follow her.

Sarah W: What elements are you hoping to capture with the covers? What are the major components that carry over from book to book?

Book The Shadowy Horses
The Shadowy Horses
( A | BN | K | ARe | iB)

Sarah C: After The Winter Sea, we wanted to develop Susanna’s next books with that same feeling in mind.

It was easy enough to keep “the look”: the fonts, the title and author branding, the torn brown paper edges, but we also felt that it was essential that the imagery have that feeling of timelessness, and also give the reader the desire to follow the woman into the story.  You don't know where she's going, where she's been, or WHEN in time she's from, but you get a sense that she needs to be followed, and you won't be disappointed if you do. 

Susanna's stories are rich with character development. That's one of the things we continually see in reviews—readers fall in love with her characters. As designers you want to find that element that readers fall in love with and give that to them visually on the cover.


Sarah W: Do you use stock art or do you do a photo shoot for your own usage?

Sarah C: All art is stock but none of the covers end up with just a stock image with type. There's a lot of Photoshop work done to get the image to where it ends up, and I think that work adds to the timelessness element.  You don't feel like you are looking at a snapshot of a woman you may already know or a story you've already heard.

All of our artists since Kelly have spent a lot of time going over the manuscript and going through very thorough notes from Susanna about imagery and scenes. Susanna also sends us images that speak to her, and why.

We get a very real and deep sense of the story and imagery from her.

Sarah W: Can you share some alternate ideas for this book that were discarded (and maybe why you didn't use them)?

Sarah C: We looked at a little over 30 covers when working on Season of Storms. The alternative covers were too specific, too dark, too flat. The woman in the flapper type dress gave you a specific time and place to associate with the image. 

The woman in the mask, while interesting, doesn’t have the quality of a woman you want to learn about – to read her story. We worked through variations of these 3 concepts mostly, trying to find the right balance of light and movement and just enough intrigue and detail to make a bookstore or online shopper stop and wonder about the book.

The final cover (below right) has great light and movement, and the palette we chose is actually reminiscent of the cover we did for The Firebird.

Season of Storms alternate cover - blonde woman in a flapper dress turned away from viewerSeason of Storms alternate cover close up on mask that's gold and redSeason of Storms final Cover - woman in yellow dress spinning away from viewer



Sarah W: What’s next for Kearsley’s covers?

Sarah C: We are right in the middle of planning a “refresh” for Susanna’s next book, coming in spring 2015. As much as we love Susanna's covers, we feel the time is right to breathe some fresh air into them. 

The challenge in front of us is how to do that while still keeping the many elements we love. We want to stay faithful to her as a brand and as an author, and also create a fresh look for her books.  The cover design world changes so fast, it's easy for a design to feel dated just in fonts and type set up.  It's an exciting time for our team!

I want to thank Sarah Castillo for answering all my questions – and the lovely folks at Sourcebooks who have offered up some finished copies of the book to give away. Unfortunately, this giveaway is US-only, because that's where Sourcebooks has the rights to Kearsely's work (I'm sorry, all of y'all who are elsewhere!). I'm throwing in three digital pre-order copies, too, which are (alas) also US-only. (I'm really sorry y'all! I still think you're most excellent and have terrific taste).

I'm giving Rafflecopter another try, after doing some research that indicated increased accessibility for their widgets. If you have any trouble at all, please email me and I'm happy to help you

Standard disclaimers apply: I'm not being compensated for this giveaway. Void where prohibited. Open to US residents where permitted by applicable law. Must be over 18 and ready to rock or possibly run down a rock path in a nightgown. Whereas, upon participation in the contest as aforesaid, said participant shall nonetheless deliver hereunto all such paraphernalia as reasonably necessary and appropriate.  By submitting  an entry to the contest as set forth herein, each entrant does acknowledge and agree that, in the event such entrant is victorious, such entrant will perform a ceremony reasonably appropriate to such circumstance, including, without limitation, the Electric Slide. I'll select the winners at random on Friday 1 August 2014.


A Rafflecopter giveaway

 A Rafflecopter giveaway


Giveaway aside, I am curious: does cover art like this capture your attention? Do you think the imagery fits Kearsley's writing style?

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Michal says:

    The cover for Winter Sea really did capture my attention. The cover invokes the kind of story you are about to dive into and modern-ish photo used with a nostalgic quality to it gives you a hint of historical adventure.

  2. 2
    Maureen says:

    Susanna Kearsley’s books do capture my interest.  They are lovely and you also know that they are her stories without seeing her name.

  3. 3
    Katy L says:

    I like the covers. It’s eye-catching partly because the images are beautiful, and partly because they are different from everything else out there. You know at a glance whose book you’re buying.

  4. 4
    Carolyn says:

    Season of Storms is a reprint of an older book, so it might be listed on the Amazon of your country with an older cover. I know it is in the US and Canada.

    I have the paperback around here somewhere; the problem is where and that’s why I’ll be buying the ebook. I do like the newer cover better than the original, from the colors to the positioning of the model.

  5. 5
    Kate says:

    The covers have a sense of mystery that would draw me in to read the description. I like not seeing the woman’s face so I can use the image in my head.

  6. 6
    Carrie says:

    I love these. I have to admit, I am not a fan of romance covers in general. They were a big part of my waiting so long to get into genre. Now I know, read what you like, don’t judge a book by its cover, etc. But, it can’t be denied that the covers do play a part in the ghettoization of the genre, however unfair. These are just beautiful. I can say that the younger, less self-assured me would have proudly displayed the book. Gosh, young me was a snob!

  7. 7
    DonnaMarie says:

    The Kearsley covers are beautiful and unique. They always draw the eye in a sea of sameness. As does the writing.

  8. 8
    cin says:

    Absolutely, yes to both.  I like her cover art generally.  It is distinctive and suits the genre, at the same time without screaming “women’s fiction.” That’s a tough balance to find.  I hate screaming covers.

  9. 9
    jody says:

    Those covers are so atmospheric—exactly like Kearsley’s writing.  Love her books!

  10. 10
    Cheryl says:

    I attended the RWA 2011 in NYC and my friend and I went to the Sourcebooks spotlight having no idea who they were. I think they were giving away an iPad or something. But then they started a slideshow of all these fabulous book covers and I was all “OMG I’ve seen all of these in Target!”

    Between Kearsley’s , Grace Burrowes’  and Jill Mansell’s covers, Sourcebooks really do have some of the most beautifully branded covers in the publishing industry.

  11. 11
    Patricia M. says:

    The Kearsley covers are distinctive and eye catching.  There is so much implied in the atmospheric covers and the quality of the covers matches the high quality of her writing.  I love the covers.

  12. 12
    TaraR says:

    The covers convey the mystery and supernatural aspects of her novel very well I think. My favorite would have to be the cover for The Firebird.

  13. 13
    amy P. says:

    I like the covers because the title and author are CLEARLY written in the middle of the book.  Sometimes I can’t find the title and or author (too many people, flowers, mountains, black running men or even animals)!  The book becomes a mystery !

    Kearsley covers are not overwhelming and I love the font!

  14. 14
    Lostshadows says:

    I really like the cover art. I haven’t read enough by her to say if they capture her writing style, but the cover of The Winter Sea is what got me to download some samples of her work when some of her books were on sale. (I ended up buying The Shadowy Horses, because the subject appealed slightly more.)

  15. 15
    azteclady says:

    I don’t think I’ve ever read anything by Ms Kearsley, though I’m pretty sure there are a couple of her books somewhere in the mountainous TBR pile.

    Cover art does get my attention, and I love it if/when, after reading the book, I find that the cover actually matches the story, either in content or feeling.

  16. 16
    Darlynne says:

    I’ve always thought the covers of Ms. Kearsley’s books were a perfect marriage of story and art. They are so evocative and put me in mind, in the best sense, of what I loved about the old Mary Stewart and Victoria Holt covers, without the fleeing-from-danger part. It’s so great to know that publishers still work diligently to create atmosphere for their authors.

  17. 17
    Stacey says:

    I find the covers of her books to be haunting and evocative. The Winter Sea is a book that stayed with me for months after I first read it, and the cover art was a big part of that—even though I read it digitally!

  18. 18
    cleo says:

    I love her covers. I haven’t actually read any of her books yet, although I keep buying them when they’re on sale. I think the covers are eye catching and they stand out.

  19. 19
    LauraL says:

    Even in this digital age, I think most of still judge books by their covers. I worked in graphic arts for a time, so I appreciate good cover art, especially when the story matches the art. From what I’ve read here, sounds like a lot of work by Sourcebooks has caught my eye over the years.

  20. 20
    Lynn Pauley says:

    Although you are really not suppose to judge a book by its cover (and working in a library I should take that to heart!), I must admit that many times what gets me to give a book a closer look is the cover.
    I love the look of Ms. Kearsley’s covers—they are both romantic and mysterious.
    As Cheryl said up above, Sourcebooks does an amazing job on their covers—there are times when I just want to purchase the book because the cover is so great!!

  21. 21
    LaineyT says:

    There have been so many gushing comments/reviews that I’ve been wanting to check out one of Susanna’s book for awhile now and have her in my TBR pile.  That being said I can’t really comment on whether or how much the covers suit the content but the ethereal quality is certainly appealing and seems to compliment the synopses.

  22. 22
    LaineyT says:

    Oops!  I’d already submitted my entries when I saw this is only open to US residents :(  Is that a shipping issue because I have friends/family in the US that I can receive the prize for me.  But if you have to delete me from the entries I’ll understand.

  23. 23
    Rebe says:

    I do like these covers! I also like that I can instantly identify that it’s one of Susanna’s books.

  24. 24
    Heather S says:

    They’re doing a “refresh”? Crap. Does that mean they’ll have to reissue her previous books so the covers all match? LOL I’m glad they didn’t go with the mask cover – that’s overdone nowadays and isn’t interesting to me at all.

  25. 25
    ReneeG says:

    I love good cover art – it makes you want to pick up the book and see what it is about.  I like the Kearsley covers – they frame both parts of the books I’ve read, the current time and the past time – while still looking elegant.  Sourcebooks did a great job them.

  26. 26
    P Ellicott says:

    I really like covers that give a hint of what a character looks like but not details so I can use my imagination to fill in the rest.

  27. 27
    Vicki says:

    I do like the covers. They are attractive and eye-catching. When I started reading Kearsley, I could find the books I hadn’t read yet by the covers.

  28. 28
    SB Sarah says:

    Now that I’ve been reading all your comments and sitting here thinking about how much I agree… I’m a doofus. My second book, Everything I Know about Love… is a Sourcebooks book, and oh, did I (and still do) love the cover.

  29. 29
    SB Sarah says:

    And fixed the Italics. Sorry about that!

  30. 30
    JPeK says:

    Lately, I’ve been buying e-books WAAAY more than I buy print versions, but with Kearsley’s books I tend to buy the print simply because I love the covers so much. I even tend set them on my bookshelves with the covers up: art! (And with my crowded shelves, it says something that I’m willing to go to the effort to arrange these books “prettily”!)

    IMO, the covers definitely evoke the feelings I get when I read the works. They capture the tone of Kearsley’s work very well.

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